Whether it’s the nonstop banter of students over hot samosas and cutting chai, or the contagious happiness of foodies indulging in their favourite dishes, canteens have a vibe that is difficult to resist. Bonds are formed, debates are won, and cravings are satiated — all in canteens. These places have often been witness to fun food competitions, zealous debates and some truly beautiful love stories.
It doesn’t matter if it is a one-room mess or a plush cafeteria, canteens are places that not just satiate your hunger pangs, but also warm your heart with nostalgia.
With their clattering thalis and long queues of perpetually hungry clients, canteens are generally associated with the idealistic days of student life. However, in India, sometimes, the best canteens can also be found in neighbourhood lunch homes, tiffin centres and diplomatic bhavans.
Keeping all of that in mind, we have prepared a list (in no particular order) of the best canteens in India. From quirky inventions to indispensable oldies, these places serve some truly amazing food !
1. Andhra Bhavan, New Delhi
The canteen of Andhra Bhawan has been consistently serving authentic, irresistible Andhra food to Delhites who descend in hordes on this culinary institution every weekend. Other than the canteen’s delicious biryani, the unlimited Andhra meals is what everyone orders. Try getting a table here on a Sunday afternoon – it will give you an idea of how popular this place truly is !
2. Indian Coffee House, Kolkata
Kolkata’s Indian Coffee House, in Albert Hall, has long been an intellectual hangout and meeting place for students (and ex-students) of the Presidency College and other institutions on the College Street. Situated in the academic hub of Kolkata, Indian Coffee House and the Bengali term adda (a light hearted exchange of views) have become synonymous with each other over time.
3. Mavalli Tiffin Room, Bengaluru
One of the oldest and well known places in the city, MTR or Mavalli Tiffin Room, has been a culinary landmark of the Baengaluru for many years. Serving thousands of people every day, MTR has quite a reputation for its mouthwatering south Indian breakfast and lunch meal as well as its high standards of hygiene and cleanliness. The Rava Idli, a much-loved breakfast dish of south India, was also invented by MTR.
4. ‘Mount’ Mani Iyer Canteen, Chennai
Chennai’s famous Mountbatten Mani Iyer canteen offers culinary treats for the young as well as the old. For the former, there’s food as varied as Chinese, chaat and chocolate dosa and for the latter, a traditional South Indian fare including over 20 varieties of dosas, paniyaram and appam. The canteen derives its name from its caterer, ‘Mount’ Mani Iyer Sreenivasan, whose prefix ‘Mount’ comes from the fact that he once served Governor General Lord Mountbatten. Sreenivasan also loves introducing novel dishes on his menu, such as watermelon rasam, thinai pongal and barley idlis !
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5. Jadavpur University Canteens, Jadavpur
A classic example of how campus adda zones morph into food hubs under the patronage of hungry students, the canteens of Jadavpur University serve some really great, wallet friendly food. The university has six canteens on its campus, the most popular among them being Milan da’s and Moni da’s canteens. The Jadavpur Coffee House is also a great place for important discussions and light finger food.
6. St. Stephen’s Cafetaria, New Delhi
When talking of college canteens that serve great food, St Stephen’s cafeteria in Delhi cannot be left behind. Famous for its mince cutlets, Kashmiri omelettes and chicken curry rice lunch, this canteen serves delicious dishes at very reasonable prices. Other favorites are chicken momos, samosa and ‘nimbos’ (nimbu pani).
7. Goa Bhavan, Mumbai
A tiny local joint in the posh Juhu locality, Goa Bhawan serves true-blue Goan cuisine that will take you straight to the beach shacks of this beautiful state. Serving some reasonable priced and lip-smacking seafood, such as the scrumptious rawa fry prawns and an amazing Goan thali, this place is a gem of a canteen. Don’t forget to try the flavorful yet subtle Sol Kadhi, the perfect way to end a great meal.
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7. IIT Kharagpur Canteens, Kharagpur
The canteens of IIT Kharagpur are definitely a foodie’s delight. On the list of Kharagpur IITians’ eternal canteen favourites are bhattu Maggi (Maggi with cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions and bhujia), cheese chottai (Pav Bhaji with cheese), dahi sandwich and macho rice which is essentially fried rice with curd.
8. Hindu College Canteen, New Delhi
The most pocket-friendly Delhi University canteen, the Hindu College cafeteria is well known for its north Indian food. The much cherished Rajma Chawal is the star of the menu that includes chole bhature, chaats and Chinese. Whether its snacks or authentic Indian meals, this canteen has definitely got you covered.
9. Chota Canteen, MICA, Ahmedabad
A cute little shack overlooking the green lawns of the MICA campus in Ahmedabad, Chota canteen is a popular hangout for students, faculty and visiting alumni alike. Serving popular delicacies from noodles and burgers to samosas, this canteen is open round the clock and is always bustling with activity. The canteen even has a Chota wall- a wall painted by seniors every year to record memorable events for their juniors.
10. Loyola College Canteen, Chennai
With a canteen that serves a plethora of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian delights, the students of Chennai’s Loyola college hardly visit any other food joint in the city. While chicken fried rice and parottas are the most popular items on the menu, the brownies and donuts served at the canteen’s confectionery stall are a huge hit with those who have a sweet tooth.
11. Christ University College Canteens, Bangalore
With over five eateries on campus, the students of Christ University can get almost anything, from ice creams on warm days to hot chocolate in the winters, on their campus itself. While the Cafeteria serves great vegetarian food, the Ivy Hall has its own share of fans for the delicious non-vegetarian fare it offers. Mango milkshake at the juice centre is also a must try.
12. Jai Hind College Canteen, Mumbai
One of the most popular college canteens in Mumbai, the Jai Hind college canteen dishes up delicious fare day after day. From famously crisp dosas and samosas to sandwiches and Indo-Chinese feasts, this canteen has it all. Even though this college canteen boasts of a high-end crowd, the price of the canteen menu is very reasonable. Don’t miss their killer keema pav !
13. Sophia College Canteen, Mumbai
One of the most famous and probably the largest college canteen in the city, Sophia’s college canteen is the next best thing on its campus after its lovely Gothic infrastructure. The most famous dish at this all-girls canteen is its very own version of chicken fried rice and spring dosa, along with the all-time Mumbai favourite, vada pav.
14. Narsee Monjee College Canteen, Mumbai
Over the decades of its existence, the sprawling Narsee Monjee college canteen has evolved into a much-loved meeting place for students. Strong whiffs of Schezwan sauce and melting butter at this canteen invites one to choose from campus favourites like the Schezwan fried rice, masala pav, grilled sandwiches, and a very original pav bhaji. Remember to try the delicious cupcakes from the Cakes & Scoops counter.